Do you suffer from chronic or frequent joint pain?
You may notice a stiff or achy back if you sit all day at a computer. Or if you frequently go to the gym, you may start to notice irritating pains in your hands, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, or feet.
In one national survey, about one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days (source).
We know joint pain can be annoying, frustrating, and never-ending, so we want to help you get back to feeling ready for an active and healthy lifestyle with some natural remedies, supplements, and recovery techniques to alleviate that chronic pain.
First, it is important to understand that joint pain is different from being sore or having tight muscles.
Joints form the connections between two bones; in other words, your joints are all your bendy parts and they are surrounded by muscles, ligaments and tendons. So, when your joints hurt, it is likely due to inflammation from overuse or possibly an underlying condition.
Joint pain is extremely common, yet very irritating and can leave you feeling like you don’t want to move or do extra-curricular activities when you’re feeling achy.
The most common cause for joint pain is inflammation - either from a condition like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or bursitis OR from an injury to ligaments or muscles surrounding the joint. Sometimes it is not actually the joint itself, but pain due to muscle tightness or overuse.
Before anything else, it is important to identify the root cause of the pain. If you think you have a medical condition that is leading to joint pain, stiffness, and discomfort, contact your primary care physician.
If it is more from overuse during training, then it is important to take proper measures to help alleviate the pain before it gets worse or turns into an injury. If you’re someone that gets joint pain now and then, we recommend focusing on preventative measures to live pain free!
So, how can you improve your joint pain?
1) Stay Active and Mobile
The golden rule of joint health: The more you move, the less stiffness you'll have. Whether you're reading, working, or watching TV it is important to maintain good posture and change positions often. Take breaks from your desk or your chair and get moving for 5-10 minutes each hour.
2) Tone It Down and Focus On Recovery
Many exercise related issues are due to overuse, muscle imbalances/over compensation and improper recovery. Oftentimes people set out on a new workout routine and go too hard, too soon. Overuse can cause joint pain especially if we are training intensely and doing repeated movements (i.e. squats, lunges, running, etc) without proper mobility, warm up and decompression. This is especially common for experienced exercisers who may not take the time to recover properly between sessions.
The amount of rest everyone needs will vary based upon factors like age, sleep patterns, stress levels, training style, how hard you train, etc.
Most people forget that exercise is a stressor to your body as it breaks your body down and then requires proper nutrition and recovery to build back up. So, it is important to give your tendons and joints adequate time to recover. You can support your recovery by taking 10-15 minutes to perform mobility exercises at the beginning of your workout and 5-10 minutes to decompress after. If you need a bit of guidance we like the app called ROMWOD to help guide you through various mobility series!
If you’re feeling really sore between workouts, remember it is okay to take a rest day and do a lower impact workout like yoga, walking or swimming.
3) Manage Stress
We know most people are overly stressed and there is really no way to avoid stress, but we can take measures to manage stress and reduce cortisol levels (our stress hormone!). One simple way to reduce stress and lower cortisol is to take 10 deep breaths a couple times a day. This has been shown to help lower cortisol levels by about 42% just by slowing down and practicing breath work!
Oftentimes we get so caught up in what we are doing we forget to take a moment to recenter and calm, try taking a short 1-2 minute break a couple times a day to breathe and stretch! Daily meditation and journaling are also powerful techniques to reduce stress as well!
Learn more about managing stress in our recent blog How Stress Impacts Fat Loss & 7 Ways To Combat Stress.
4) Reduce Inflammation
The best way to reduce inflammation is through your nutrition and proper supplementation.Sometimes when we experience joint pain it is due to intolerance to certain foods like gluten, dairy or other foods that trigger an inflammatory immune response. Gluten is one of the top culprits of chronic inflammation and is protein primarily found in wheat, barley and rye.
Inflammation manifests itself in various ways and can be the underlying issue to joint pain, fatigue, skin rashes, and other gastrointestinal issues including the inability to absorb the nutrients from food properly.
Joint pain, often misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, is a very common symptom of gluten intolerance (source). If you have any of these symptoms try eliminating gluten for 7-14 days to see if your joint pain improves.
5) Support Your Body with the Right Nutrients and Supplements
Eating leafy green vegetables and fruits that are high in antioxidants, as well as a diet rich in Omega-3s, will help reduce inflammation throughout your body and joints.
This reduction in inflammation can help lead to a reduction in joint pain, as well as improve cardiovascular health, gut health, and even brain function!
We also recommend these three supplements to support joint health and reduce inflammation.
Relief -If you are suffering from chronic aches and pain, and find yourself taking over the counter NSAIDs, give Relief a try as it is 14x more effective than Ibuprofen and of course, is all natural! The powerful antioxidant blend also supports your immune system, which is important for optimal health!
Fish Oil - Fatty cold-water types like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep joints healthy. They also lower inflammation, which causes joint pain and tenderness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids tend to be anti-inflammatory, whereas Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Although some inflammation in the body is necessary, we don’t want too much. The Center for Genetics found that while our ratios of omega-3s to omega-6 should be 1:1, the ratio is more like 15:1-16.7:1 in our traditional Western diet. They also indicate that eating a diet high in omega-6 “promotes the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.”
Therefore, we highly recommend eating more omega-3 rich foods such as wild caught fish as mentioned along with tofu, walnuts, flax seeds and soybeans and supplementing with a high quality Omega-3 supplement to improve the ratio of omegas you are consuming in your diet.
Vitamin D - Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, plays multiple roles in the body including maintaining bone health! Studies have shown 70-90% of the American population is Vitamin D deficient, leading to a host of problems; therefore we recommend supplementing with Vitamin D to maintain adequate levels. Additionally, we would recommend getting outside for a walk 1-2x a day to get sunshine first thing in the morning and mid day when the sun is closest to the earth and you can get the most Vitamin D exposure!
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